In the sanctuary of St. Matthew’s Cathedral Sunday, Müller projected an image of stolidity. After Cardinal Wuerl thanked him for celebrating the Mass, the parishioners clapped. Only Müller’s head moved; his face remained expressionless. At 6’3” or 6’4” and 240 pounds at least, the 66-year-old looks like he could have tried out to be a goalie for a Bundesliga futbol team two generations ago.
But Müller was no silent participant on his Sunday and Monday visit in Washington. He talked and talked. The prelate delivered a 15- or 20-minute homily at the All Soul’s Day Mass. In mostly un-inflected English, Müller urged parishioners to grow closer to the faithful departed.
“So love the dead. Pray for the dead. Talk with the dead, and ask for their forgiveness. In that way, we find purification and eternal rest gained through Him,” he said.
After the dismissal of Mass, Müller walked down the long, marble aisle of the cathedral and stopped four or five times to chat with young parents and bless their children. Maurizio Luise, 35, said Müller sought out him and his infant daughter Scarlett Rose. “He gestured, he looked at her, and he blessed her,” a glowing Luise said in an interview.
At Catholic University, Müller delivered a long lecture, “Donum Veritatis: The Contribution of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to the Theological Enterprise.” His talk emphasized that theologians must not be content with a “desk-bound theology” but rather seek to go out into the world to spread the Gospel. “The person proclaiming the truth has as his or her object not simply something intellectual, but human communion. That means that the truth must be transmitted in a way that offers an opportunity for people to give themselves unreservedly,” Müller said, according to the Catholic News Agency.
Although Müller talked and talked, he chose his words with care. Like a political candidate who fears that a verbal gaffe will alienate supporters, in Washington Müller avoided any mention of the work of the Synod on the Family.
To be sure, in his talk at Catholic University Müller invoked the name of the current Pontiff, but his speech was an erudite theological address rather than a plain religious talk. “He quoted Pope Francis extensively. I think he reached the audience. They were very well versed in Catholic theology, but I think it might have gone over their heads,” Gehring said.
"But the Pope is reaching so many inside and outside the Church because he speaks to people’s hearts and experiences," Gehring continued. "As Pope Francis says in the Joy of the Gospel, ‘realities are more powerful than ideas.’"
Müller revealed little else during his stay in Washington. No reporters managed to procure an interview with him. In the world’s most powerful political town, the Vatican’s chief enforcer of orthodoxy showed a rhetorical discipline the envy of any politician.
Mark Stricherz covers Washington for Aleteia. He is author of Why the Democrats are Blue.